Around the Watershed: News and Events

What’s in a Name? Why are there Different Names for Waterways?

Posted on: January 31st, 2020 by Brent Gotsch
Local names for Brooks, Creeks, Kills, Rivers, Runs and Streams in New York State. Image by Andy Arthur.

Local names for Brooks, Creeks, Kills, Rivers, Runs and Streams in New York State. Image by Andy Arthur.


Here at the Ashokan Water­shed Stream Man­age­ment Pro­gram (AWSMP) we often get asked the ques­tion:  what’s the dif­fer­ence between a stream, creek, brook, and a river? First, those are just some of the many names that are used to label water­ways in the United States. Not only that, but those names can spark great pas­sions among many in the com­mu­nity and espe­cially on social media. Every­one seems to have their favorite descrip­tor for what a water­way should be and their own per­sonal belief on a nam­ing scheme for the size of water­ways. Many peo­ple believe that only “large” water­ways should be called rivers for exam­ple. Accord­ing to the United States Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey (USGS) there is tech­ni­cally no offi­cial nam­ing tax­on­omy for water­ways and the words, river, creek, brook, stream, etc. can be used interchangeably.

Region­ally there can be a lot of vari­a­tion. It seems that the names of water­ways derive mostly from the his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural aspects of the peo­ple who lived near them. For exam­ple, in the Hud­son Val­ley and Catskill region a very com­mon des­ig­na­tion for a water­way is the word “kill” as in Bush Kill, Beaver Kill, Wal­lkill and Fishkill to name just a few. The rea­son for that is because the Dutch were the orig­i­nal Euro­pean set­tlers in these regions and the Dutch word “kill” essen­tially trans­lates into the Eng­lish words stream or creek. It’s less clear why some of the streams have the word “kill” attached to the first word (such as Wal­lkill) and oth­ers are sep­a­rated (such as Bush Kill) or why some even have what would seem to be a redun­dant word after them (such as Fishkill Creek).

Prior to being known as a stream, creek, or brook, water begins flow­ing down­hill in a rill, the word for the small­est chan­nels that con­tain con­cen­trated flow. Rills merge to form streams, creeks, brooks, runs, or kills based largely on the cul­tural his­tory of the region. Then, as pio­neer­ing river sci­en­tist, Luna Leopold said, “at some unde­fined size, they are termed rivers.” So whether your favorite term for a stream is a creek (or “crik” as many locals like to say), a brook, a kill or a river, we can all take enjoy­ment in our local streams and all that they pro­vide for us.

Winter Snowshoe Stream Walk on February 15th

Posted on: January 14th, 2020 by Brent Gotsch
Participants enjoy the 2019 AWSMP Snowshoe Stream Walk on Rochester Hollow Trail.

Par­tic­i­pants enjoy the 2019 AWSMP Snow­shoe Stream Walk on Rochester Hol­low Trail.


*Please note that due to low snow amounts this event will be resched­uled for Feb­ru­ary 15. If there are still poor snow con­di­tions a reg­u­lar walk will occur.

Reg­is­ter now for a Win­ter Snow­shoe Stream Walk along Birch Creek! We’ll snow­shoe on a DEC trail at the end of Lower Birch Creek Road near Pine Hill, NY from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Sat­ur­day, Feb­ru­ary 15, 2020. If there is no snow on this date, a reg­u­lar stream walk will be held with­out snow­shoes. Snow­shoes and walk­ing poles will be pro­vided, though, par­tic­i­pants are encour­aged to bring their own gear. Those with lim­ited or no expe­ri­ence snow­shoe­ing are encour­aged to attend. Instruc­tion on how to snow­shoe prop­erly and safely will be given before ven­tur­ing out on the trail.

The walk will be approx­i­mately 2 hours in length on NYS Depart­ment of Envi­ron­men­tal Con­ser­va­tion (NYSDEC) Wild For­est land. There is only a par­tial trail along the stream so the ter­rain could be some­what chal­leng­ing. Dur­ing the walk, edu­ca­tors from Cor­nell Coop­er­a­tive Exten­sion of Ulster County will share infor­ma­tion about local streams and how to pro­tect water resources, and we will inves­ti­gate signs of local wildlife. There will be fre­quent stops to point out inter­est­ing fea­tures of the stream or to dis­cuss envi­ron­men­tal top­ics. Light refresh­ments will be served.

Meet at the DEC park­ing lot at the end of Lower Birch Creek Road by 10:00 am.

The event is free of charge but space is lim­ited. Please reg­is­ter early to hold your spot. Reg­is­ter online at or con­tact Linda Gonnella at the AWSMP office at or 845–688‑3047 ext. 0.

Climate Scientist James Hansen speaking locally next month

Posted on: January 9th, 2020 by Brent Gotsch
Dr. James Hansen, Columbia University Climatologist will be speaking locally on February 6, 2020.

Dr. James Hansen, Colum­bia Uni­ver­sity Cli­ma­tol­o­gist will be speak­ing locally on Feb­ru­ary 6, 2020.


Dr. James Hansen, Colum­bia Uni­ver­sity Cli­ma­tol­o­gist and for­mer Direc­tor of the NASA God­dard Insti­tute for Space Stud­ies, will be giv­ing a talk about cli­mate change with a focus on the Catskill Region next month. “Catskill Con­ver­sa­tion  with James Hansen” will dis­cuss the cur­rent cli­mate emer­gency and be the inau­gural event of the Youth Empow­er­ment and Sus­tain­abil­ity Sum­mit (YESS) that will take place at the Ashokan Cen­ter. The talk will be given on Thurs­day, Feb­ru­ary 6 from 7:00pm — 9:30pm at Kingston High School located at 403 Broad­way in Kingston, NY. Sug­gested dona­tion is $10 for adults and $5 for chil­dren and stu­dents. The talk will be fol­lowed by a ques­tion and answer session.

Dr. Hansen was trained in physics and astron­omy at the Uni­ver­sity of Iowa. His early research on the clouds of Venus helped iden­tify their com­po­si­tion as sul­fu­ric acid. Since the late 1970s, he has focused his research on the Earth’s cli­mate, espe­cially that of anthro­pogenic cli­mate change. Dr. Hansen’s tes­ti­mony before con­gres­sional com­mit­tees in the 1980s helped raise aware­ness about cli­mate change. Dr. Hansen was elected to the National Acad­emy of Sci­ences in 1995 and was des­ig­nated by Time Mag­a­zine as one of the 100 most influ­en­tial peo­ple on Earth in 2006. He has received numer­ous awards includ­ing the Carl-Gustaf Rossby and Roger Rev­elle Research Medals, the Sophie Prize and the Blue Planet Prize.

Cli­mate change is affect­ing pre­cip­i­ta­tion lev­els in the Catskills that in turn impact our streams. Cli­mate change has been cre­at­ing con­di­tions that favor extreme weather events such as floods and pro­longed droughts. All of which have a sig­nif­i­cant impacts on stream and ripar­ian ecosystems.

Reg­is­tra­tion for the pro­gram can be accessed by click­ing this link.

Dr. James Hansen testifying before Congress about Climate Change in 1988.

Dr. James Hansen tes­ti­fy­ing before Con­gress on the topic of Cli­mate Change in 1988.

Happy New Year from the AWSMP!

Posted on: December 24th, 2019 by Leslie_Zucker

Happy hol­i­days to all from the Ashokan Water­shed Stream Man­age­ment Pro­gram. The pro­gram staff at the Ulster County Soil and Water Con­ser­va­tion Dis­trict and Cor­nell Coop­er­a­tive Exten­sion of Ulster County wish you and yours a Happy New Year!

Common Winterberry

Com­mon Win­ter­berry. Photo by Katja Schulz

Did you know com­mon win­ter­berry (Ilex ver­ti­cil­lata) is a holly native to the Catskills? After the native shrub loses its leaves each autumn, you are left with brightly col­ored berries packed on stems. What a beau­ti­ful way to add color to the win­ter land­scape! Win­ter­berry thrives in the moist woods bor­der­ing streams and is easy to grow with few dis­eases and pests.

Stream Stewardship Scholarships Available

Posted on: December 4th, 2019 by Leslie_Zucker

The Ashokan Water­shed Stream Man­age­ment Pro­gram announces the avail­abil­ity of Stream Stew­ard­ship Train­ing Schol­ar­ships to attend stream and flood­plain man­age­ment train­ings in 2020. A lim­ited num­ber of schol­ar­ships will be offered to munic­i­pal staff work­ing directly on stream and flood­plain man­age­ment in the Ashokan Reser­voir watershed.

Schol­ar­ships cover atten­dance at:



For infor­ma­tion on cov­ered costs and how to request a schol­ar­ship, see the schol­ar­ship guide­lines.

If none of the train­ings above apply to you, join us at train­ings and edu­ca­tional events offered by the AWSMP through­out the year.

Fall Is Planting Season with CSBI

Posted on: November 18th, 2019 by Tim Koch


Fall is in full swing: the leaves have changed, the tem­per­a­tures have dropped, and the Catskill Streams Buffer Ini­tia­tive (CSBI) is busy get­ting plants in the ground. Autumn is the best time to plant native trees and shrubs because the plants have gone dor­mant for win­ter; they have stopped actively grow­ing for the year.  When dor­mant trees and shrubs are planted in the late fall, the freeze-thaw cycles they will expe­ri­ence over the com­ing win­ter months helps to close any void spaces in the soil left­over after back-filling the holes. This cre­ates good root-soil con­tact so that in the spring the plants can start grow­ing vig­or­ously as soon as the soil tem­per­a­tures warm up.

Proposed Planting Areas

CSBI is imple­ment­ing five plant­ing projects this fall, includ­ing one at Emer­son Resort & Spa in Mt. Trem­per, NY. Other ripar­ian buffer plant­ing projects will be com­pleted in Wood­stock, Shan­daken, and Olive. More than 2,000 native trees, shrubs, and wild­flow­ers will be planted along streams, help­ing to reduce stream bank ero­sion, fil­ter stormwa­ter runoff, and pro­vide unique habitat.

CSBI is a landowner assis­tance pro­gram aimed at inform­ing and assist­ing stream­side landown­ers in becom­ing good stew­ards of their ripar­ian areas through pro­tec­tion, enhance­ment, man­age­ment, and restora­tion. Tech­ni­cal and finan­cial assis­tance is avail­able to eli­gi­ble landown­ers for ripar­ian buffer improvements.

To find out more about CSBI and to see if you are eligible:

click here for pro­gram brochure,

click here for pro­gram guidelines,

and click here for appli­ca­tion materials.


Town of Olive Supervisor Honored at AWSMP Stakeholder Council Meeting

Posted on: November 14th, 2019 by Brent Gotsch
Town of Olive Supervisor Sylvia Rozzelle receives the "Friend of the Creek Award" at a recent AWSMP Stakeholder's Council Meeting

Town of Olive Super­vi­sor Sylvia Rozzelle receives the “Friend of the Creek Award” at a recent AWSMP Stakeholder’s Coun­cil Meeting

Sylvia Rozzelle, the Town of Olive Super­vi­sor, was awarded the “Friend of the Creek Award” at the AWSMP Stakeholder’s Coun­cil Meet­ing on Novem­ber 13th. Rozzelle, who is retir­ing at the end of this year, was rec­og­nized for all her efforts in pro­mot­ing good stream and flood­plain man­age­ment for the Town of Olive. Some of her many accom­plish­ments include:

  • Over­see­ing a Local Flood Analy­sis (LFA) for the ham­lets of Boiceville and West Shokan.
  • Help­ing to final­ize a Flood Haz­ard Mit­i­ga­tion Plan for the Town of Olive.
  • Cre­at­ing and lead­ing the Olive Flood Advi­sory Com­mit­tee, a body that helps to over­see flood haz­ard mit­i­ga­tion activ­i­ties in the Town.
  • Spear­head­ing a stream restora­tion project on the Bushkill set to com­mence in 2020.
  • Work­ing with AWSMP, Ulster County, and the NYC Depart­ment of Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion to acquire haz­ardous flood­plain prop­er­ties as part of the NYC-Funded Buy­out Program.

Sylvia also helps to coor­di­nate with AWSMP and the Town’s High­way Depart­ment to ensure that road-stream cross­ings are ade­quately sized, placed, and funded. She has also ensured that the Town’s Build­ing Depart­ment offi­cials as well as mem­bers of the Town Plan­ning Board and Zon­ing Board of Appeals are ade­quately trained in flood­plain man­age­ment. Because of her advo­cacy, the Town Code Enforce­ment Offi­cer engaged with AWSMP to obtain train­ing and become a Cer­ti­fied Flood­plain Man­ager. And both the Plan­ning Board and Zon­ing Board of Appeals have received train­ing on National Flood Insur­ance Pro­gram top­ics dur­ing Sylvia’s tenure as Supervisor.

We hope that Sylvia enjoys a well-deserved retire­ment and that we’ll con­tinue to see her at the stream pro­gram office in Shokan. More infor­ma­tion about Sylvia and her achieve­ments will be fea­tured in an upcom­ing issue of the Eso­pus Creek News.

Public Water: Be involved in a public art project about the NYC water system

Posted on: October 21st, 2019 by Tim Koch

AWSMP is part­ner­ing with the Cary Insti­tute of Ecosys­tem Stud­ies and NYC-based More Art to develop the mes­sag­ing for Pub­lic Water: a pub­lic art project aimed at bring­ing atten­tion to the efforts of upstate cit­i­zens and com­mu­ni­ties in sup­ply­ing clean and reli­able water to New York City. AWSMP will host two work­shops on Sat­ur­day, Novem­ber 2nd to share sto­ries about the expe­ri­ences of upstate com­mu­ni­ties involved in NYC water sup­ply oper­a­tions, dis­cuss the com­plex ways that water con­nects upstate and down­state com­mu­ni­ties, and develop a per­for­mance script that will spread this mes­sage through an inter­ac­tive pub­lic art exhibit in 2020.


New York City based visual artist Mary Mat­tingly will build a geo­desic sculp­ture that rep­re­sents the struc­tural ecosys­tem of the Catskill water sup­ply sys­tem and engage the pub­lic through an inter­ac­tive per­for­mance art dia­logue devel­oped with the input of upstate stake­hold­ers at work­shops hosted by AWSMP and the Cary Insti­tute. The sculp­ture and per­for­mance will debut in a highly traf­ficked pub­lic space in NYC in spring 2020.

The work­shops will be held Sat­ur­day, Novem­ber 2nd from 10 am — 5 pm. The first work­shop (10–1) will focus on gath­er­ing sto­ries and per­spec­tives about how water sup­ply oper­a­tions impact upstate res­i­dents and com­mu­ni­ties. The sec­ond work­shop (2–5) will focus on devel­op­ing a per­for­mance script to share these sto­ries with down­state res­i­dents who inter­act with the sculp­ture and per­for­mance. Com­pli­men­tary light lunch and refresh­ments will be served.

The work­shops are free and open to the pub­lic. Please reg­is­ter here.

For more infor­ma­tion please con­tact AWSMP’s Tim Koch ( or More Art’s Elana Lado (


Acclaimed Scientist to discuss Stream Management in the Catskills

Posted on: October 11th, 2019 by Brent Gotsch
Dave Rosgen, Ph.D. teaches a class about fluvial geomorphology.

Dave Ros­gen, Ph.D. teaches a class about flu­vial geomorphology.


The New York City Depart­ment of Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion (NYC DEP) will host a pub­lic lec­ture by Dave Ros­gen, Ph.D., who is widely regarded as one of the fore­most stream man­age­ment experts in the world. His talk, “Liv­ing with Moun­tain Rivers in a Chang­ing Cli­mate” will focus on mak­ing river com­mu­ni­ties resilient to more fre­quent flood­ing as a result of cli­mate change. He will share best man­age­ment prac­tices for river man­age­ment includ­ing his approach to river restora­tion known as Nat­ural Chan­nel Design. This approach works with the nat­ural ten­den­cies of rivers to reach equi­lib­rium within the land­scape they pass through.

Ros­gen is a pro­fes­sional hydrol­o­gist and geo­mor­phol­o­gist with 49 years of expe­ri­ence work­ing in rivers. He has designed and imple­mented more than 70 large scale river restora­tion projects. His work has been fea­tured in national pub­li­ca­tions such as National Geo­graphic and the New York Times and he has authored more than five dozen reports, jour­nal arti­cles and fed­eral agency man­u­als and books. He has taught short courses in water­shed man­age­ment and river restora­tion for river man­agers through­out the coun­try for the past 25 years.

Since the mid-1990s, DEP has pro­vided nearly $200 mil­lion to fund restora­tion of nearly 50 miles of stream in the Catskills, includ­ing more than 400 indi­vid­ual projects. The projects, many of which have used Rosgen’s meth­ods, are coor­di­nated through unique part­ner­ships with local agen­cies. In Ulster County, this is done through the Ashokan Water­shed Stream Man­age­ment Pro­gram (AWSMP) which is a part­ner­ship between Cor­nell Coop­er­a­tive Exten­sion of Ulster County and the Ulster County Soil and Water Con­ser­va­tion Dis­trict. These col­lab­o­ra­tions have yielded wide-ranging ben­e­fits to local com­mu­ni­ties and to water quality.

The talk will be held at the Over­look Lodge of Bel­leayre Moun­tain, 181 Galli Curci Road in High­mount, NY on Octo­ber 21, from 7:00–9:00pm. It is free of charge and open to the pub­lic. Space is lim­ited and reg­is­tra­tion is encouraged.

Thank You for Helping us Celebrate Ashokan Watershed Month

Posted on: October 3rd, 2019 by Brent Gotsch
AWSMP staff kayak on the lake of Kenneth Wilson Campground and a section of the Little Beaver Kill during Ashokan Watershed Month 2019.

AWSMP staff kayak on the lake of Ken­neth Wil­son Camp­ground and a sec­tion of the Lit­tle Beaver Kill dur­ing Ashokan Water­shed Month 2019.


The Ashokan Water­shed Stream Man­age­ment Pro­gram would like to thank every­one for par­tic­i­pat­ing in our inau­gural Ashokan Water­shed Month. Ear­lier this year, AWSMP staff devel­oped a series of ambi­tious and cre­ative pro­grams that we hoped would be of inter­est to a wide cross-section of the peo­ple who visit, live, and work in the Ashokan Reser­voir Water­shed. Now that it’s all over we believe that it was a resound­ing success!

Will Lytle reads from his new AWSMP funded children's book "Little One and the Water" at the Golden Notebook in Woodstock during Ashokan Watershed Month 2019.

Will Lytle reads from his new AWSMP funded children’s book “Lit­tle One and the Water” at the Golden Note­book in Wood­stock dur­ing Ashokan Water­shed Month 2019.


The pro­grams that were offered included:

  • An En Plein Air Stream­side Paint­ing class where par­tic­i­pants learned how to use water col­ors to paint a stream scene while learn­ing about the stream fea­tures they were painting.
  • The NYC Depart­ment of Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion (NYC DEP) gave a pre­sen­ta­tion on Under­stand­ing Ashokan Reser­voir Oper­a­tions and explained how they are going to upgrade their infra­struc­ture in the com­ing years.
  • AWSMP part­nered with Rail Explor­ers to host a Sun­set Rail Pedal along the Eso­pus where par­tic­i­pants got to see the Eso­pus Creek from a wholly dif­fer­ent perspective.
  • At Ken­neth Wil­son Camp­ground we hosted a Water­shed Pad­dle where par­tic­i­pants got to learn about streams while float­ing on the water itself.
  • AWSMP hosted Dr. Dorothy Peteet of Colum­bia Uni­ver­sity and NASA who gave a pre­sen­ta­tion on Pale­o­cli­mate of the Catskills.
  • Both the United States Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey (USGS) and the Ashokan-Pepacton Chap­ter of Trout Unlim­ited gave a pre­sen­ta­tion on the fish­eries of the Eso­pus Creek and the his­tory of fly fish­ing the area, respectively.
  • Ulster County and NYC DEP gave par­tic­i­pants a sneak peek of the Ashokan Reser­voir Rail Trail and a new appre­ci­a­tion for wet­lands dur­ing our Impor­tance of Water­shed Wet­lands walk.
  • AWSMP had not one, but two Book Sign­ings and Read­ings of “Lit­tle One and the Water,” an envi­ron­men­tally themed children’s book funded by AWSMP.
  • Finally, we rounded out the month with a Ripar­ian Buffer Plant­ing on the Beaver Kill in the Town of Wood­stock where vol­un­teers helped reveg­e­tate a stream project site and fol­lowed it up with a Clos­ing Party at the Phoeni­cia Diner.


A scene from "The Importance of Watershed Wetlands" walk and talk from Ashokan Watershed Month 2019.

A scene from “The Impor­tance of Water­shed Wet­lands” walk and talk from Ashokan Water­shed Month 2019.


While we may be done with Water­shed Month pro­gram­ming you can still take part in the Ashokan Water­shed Adven­ture, a self-guided tour of impor­tant sites through­out the water­shed. Book­lets with infor­ma­tion about each of the sites are avail­able at our office or can be down­loaded. Those who do the adven­ture can still pick-up their prizes while they last.

Once again, thank you all for help­ing us cel­e­brate what makes our water­shed so unique. Be sure to check our web­site and social media accounts often to see future pro­gram­ming and hap­pen­ings from AWSMP!


Volunteers and AWSMP help plant native riparian vegetation on the site of stream restoration project along Mink Hollow during Ashokan Watershed Month 2019.

Vol­un­teers and AWSMP help plant native ripar­ian veg­e­ta­tion on the site of a stream restora­tion project along Mink Hol­low Rd. dur­ing Ashokan Water­shed Month 2019.